Fister: Nats' rotation could be better than Tigers

Fister: Nats' rotation could be better than Tigers
January 28, 2014, 2:00 pm
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Doug Fister pitched in a Mariners rotation that included Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee. He pitched in a Tigers rotation that boasted Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.

And he thinks his current rotation in Washington — featuring Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann — might just top them all.

"I've certainly been blessed to be a part of some teams and rotations I've been with," Fister said Saturday at NatsFest. "I think here we are just as good, if not better."

Acquired from Detroit earlier this winter to bolster what already was one of baseball's most-talented rotations, Fister is comfortable slotting in as the No. 4 starter when he can point to three elite pitchers ahead of him on the depth chart. And this is nothing new for the right-hander, whose entire career has been spent in the shadows of bigger-name teammates.

In Seattle, Fister pitched behind Hernandez for three seasons and also Lee for part of 2011. Traded to the Tigers that summer, he joined a rotation that already touted Verlander as ace as well as a burgeoning young talent in Scherzer (now the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner).

Fister, who turns 30 next month, was particularly excited to meet several of his new rotation mates this weekend.

"Being able to meet them face-to-face, and being able to look forward to playing with them is something special to me," he said. "As a starting pitcher, I want to be a part of a rotation that works together, that brings the team sense into the five."

Once the initial surprise of his trade — the Nationals sent Steve Lombardozzi, Ian Krol and Robbie Ray to Detroit — wore off, Fister's next reaction to the deal was "sheer excitement."

"Right away, I thought of myself as a National," he said. "I was immediately glad to be coming here."

The relation could become strained a bit if Fister and the Nationals aren't able to settle on a salary figure and are forced to go to arbitration in a few weeks. The right-hander, who made $4 million last season in his first year of arbitration eligibility, is seeking $8.5 million now. The Nats' counter offer was for $5.75 million.

That's a fairly wide gap, but Fister sounded optimistic the two sides can find common ground without ever appearing before the arbitration panel.

"We both want to settle," he said. "It's one of those things that nobody ever wants to go to arbitration, so we're looking to see what we can do. At this point, we'll see what kind of plays out."